Big Beer vs Home Brewing?

You would think that Big Beer and homebrewers have conflicting interests. After all, if people are brewing their own beer, they are not buying it from Big Beer. Right? Well, it turns out that’s not exactly the case. The largest brewing company in the world, AB InBev, is not feeling threatened by homebrewing, it’s encouraging it!

To compete with the ever growing number of craft breweries, AB InBev created a special division that’s mission has been to acquire successful and growing craft breweries and make them part of AB InBev. It’s essentially the same strategy Darth Vader and the Emperor tried to use in Star Wars. If they could have gotten Luke to join them, they would be able to eliminate an enemy, and gain more power. Of course, this strategy didn’t quite work out for the Empire, but it seems to be working for AB InBev.

According to the American Homebrewers Association, homebrewers  produced over 1.4 million barrels of beer last year, and that number is growing fast as more and more people begin brewing their own beer.  So how can Big Beer eliminate that competition? Simple. By creating a division dedicated to acquiring the companies that supply homebrewers with what they need to brew.

By acquiring leading home brewing supply companies such as Northern Brewer, AB Inbev can actually profit from the growth in home brewing. As a result, AB InBev is happily promoting that growth.

So, is this a good thing? A bad thing? Or does it really matter? Personally, I find it a little disturbing. Short term it probably won’t make any difference, but long term?

What happens when all commercial brewing is owned by one company, and that same company supplies all the materials and equipment used by homebrewers?

 

I see men, but where are the women?

Women drink beer. This shouldn’t surprise you since there’s a pretty good chance you know a woman, or even several, who drink beer, or you are a beer-drinking woman yourself. Women also brew, package, sell and market beer. This shouldn’t be news to anyone who has been on a brewery tour, attended a beer festival, or have heard of beer industry big names like Irene Firmat- founder of Full Sail Brewing, Kim Jordan- co-founder of New Belgium Brewing, or even craft beer pioneer Carol Stoudt- founder of Stoudt Brewing.

While women brewers are becoming more and more common in the modern craft brewing movement, there are still relatively few. Historically, brewing was done by women. Yet today brewing is seen mostly as the domain of young bearded men.

Beer is genderless and there is nothing strange about a woman drinking a beer. However, there is a significant difference in the number women and men who prefer beer or brew beer. Based on combined data from Gallup polls conducted from 2010 through 2016 about 54% of men preferred beer as opposed to 23% of women.  50% of women preferred wine where only 18% of men.

So why do more than twice as many men prefer beer than women? And why do nearly 3 time more women prefer wine than men?  I believe that the answer may be a combination of marketing, and stereo typing.

There has been a lot of criticism recently directed at the way beer is marketed and labeled. TV commercials and print adds usually depict men enjoying a beer, and when women appear in beer commercials or adds they are usually scantily clad women and serving beer to men.

Additionally, beer labels and beer names are often offensive to women and degrade women by objectifying them or playing on negative stereo types. Here are some examples of beer names: Leg-Spreader brewed by Route 2 Brews, Hoppy Bitch brewed by Northwest Brewing, Bitch Slap brewed by Pig Minds Brewing Co, Panty Peeler brewed by Midnight Sun Brewing, Thong Remover brewed by Village Idiot Brewing,  Naughty Girl brewed by Right Brain Brewery, Double D brewed by Dominion Brewing, Bare Ass Blonde brewed by DuClaw Brewing, and Tramp Stamp brewed by Clown Shoes Beer. The pictures that accompany these beer names depict women as promiscuous, scantily clad, or just plain crazy.

These types of beer names and depictions might very well be part of the reason some women prefer not to drink beer. Imagine if the tables were turned. Sound silly or over sensitive? Would your average guy reach for a beer called Woody Ale with a picture of a guy with his legs wrapped around a tree on the label? I can tell you that I personally wouldn’t be too excited to put my lips on a bottle depicting a guy dry humping a tree.

Of course, on television and in movies women are nearly always drinking wine while the men around them are drinking beer, reinforcing the stereotype that women drink wine and men drink beer. Have you ever watched Cougar Town, Sex and the City, or even The Big Bang Theory?

If women are being discouraged from drinking beer through advertising, beer names, beer labels, television shows, and movies, is it any wonder that not only do fewer women drink beer and even fewer women decide to go into brewing?

Women may not be intentionally discouraged from drinking and brewing beer, but the results are the same. About 77% of women prefer to drink something other than beer, and as a result would not likely consider a career in brewing. That is a lot of potential customers and a lot of potential brewers.

Perhaps before we name our beer and print the label, we should ask ourselves if we would feel comfortable serving it to our mothers or daughters.  I know I would be a little embarrassed to serve my mother Leg-Spreader, no matter how good the beer.

Make Your Own Beer at Home. Really!

Have you ever thought about brewing your own beer at home?  It is not as hard as some people make it sound.  It is actually a lot of fun to create and make great tasting beer that you can drink and be proud of.  There are lots of different brewing kits available online and at your local Home Brewing store that can help you with the process every step of the way.

But what does it cost? Depending on the type of beer and ingredients, you can then make 5 gallons (about 2 cases) of craft beer for about $25. At a minimum price of $10 per six-pack, the same amount of craft beer would cost you at least $80. So $25 for more than $80 of beer. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

When you brew your own beer at home, you are going to need at the minimum malt, water, hops, and brewers yeast.

When it comes to malt, you have some choices.  First, you could use malted grain. This is grain that has been allowed to begin to germinate or sprout, then dried and roasted. Depending on the temperature and the amount of time it is roasted, the sugars in the grain are developed and made more complex. Lighter roasts are used to supply most of the sugars needed for fermentation. Darker roasts contain more complex sugars and stronger flavors that range anywhere from caramel to chocolate and coffee. The grain has to be ground and steeped in hot water for a period of time, then drained and rinsed to extract the sugars need for the beer. The wort (which is what this liquid is called) is then boiled to make the unfermented beer.

You could also use a malt extract. Extract is created by extracting sugars from the grain, then concentrating them. Malt extracts can be liquid or dry. All you have to do is add the extract to boiling water and presto! You have unfermented beer. Both liquid and dry work well and are easy to use however dry extracts can be stored longer than the liquid form.  You will also find that there are many different extracts to choose from.  If there isn’t a home brewing supply store near you, you can order what you need online. For the beginner brewer, extracts are easy to use and can make some great beer.

One thing that people do not know is that making beer requires a lot of water.  It is best to use spring water even though some people get good results with tap water as well. The quality and characteristics of the water used in brewing will have a huge impact in the taste of the beer.

Yeast is another big part of making beer.  Yeast is what ferments the malts and the sugars into the alcohol, and also produces carbon dioxide.  The type of yeast used is important since it not only produces alcohol, but it can impart a variety of subtle flavors into the beer. Brewers yeast comes either in liquid or dry form.

While you can make beer without hops, it is an important ingredient in many popular beers. Depending on the type, amount added, and when it is added during the brewing process, hops can also impart a wide variety of flavors and aromas to the beer, as well as bitterness.

As far as what equipment you will need, the basics are a pot to boil your beer, a bucket with a lid or a large bottle called a carboy with some sort of airlock to use as a fermenter, bottles to put your beer in, a hose to transfer the beer to the bottles and caps as well as a capping tool. You can get a starter kit with nearly everything you need to brew your first 5 gallon batch of beer for about $60.

It is also very important to be clean and sanitary.  You need to make sure that all the equipment that you use is not only clean, but sterile.  Contamination from wild yeasts and bacteria can cause unpleasant flavors in your brew.

There are thousands of free beer recipes available on the Internet, including clones of some of your favorite commercial beers. A quick search and you should have no problem finding a recipe that you like.  You will see that there are certain beers that take longer than others to brew, and others that will take no time at all. settle on a style or flavor that sounds best to you and start brewing.

Making your own beer is a great way to explore your creative side, impress your friends, and to enjoy the fruits of your labor.  It is something that you will only get better at over time and all of your pals and buddies will enjoy the fact that you can make them good tasting beer.  Go forth my friend, and brew.

Self Serve Beer Taps?

So you’re in a brewery with some friends having a good time when you realize your glass is inexplicably empty. What do you do? There is nothing more frustrating than waiting to order another beer. You get the server’s attention and order another draft, but the server has to order it from the bartender. The bar could have 4 taps or 20 taps, it doesn’t matter.  If there is only one bartender, your beer will have to wait to be poured, then wait again for the server to pick up your beer to bring it to you. What if you could just walk over to the taps and pour yourself another beer? In your dreams, right? Well, not any more.

Not only is this real, but Ono Brewing in Chantilly, VA has self serve beer taps ready and waiting for you!

You’re probably wondering how that would work, so let me explain.  You walk into Ono Brewing and see a host or hostess and either start a tab with your credit card or load a card with any cash amount. You are now set. Walk over to the wall of beer, pick the beer of your choice, tap your card on the tap and fill your glass.

Don’t want a full glass? No problem. Get just a taste or a half glass. You only pay for what you pour. It’s that simple.

Ono Brewing is using a system designed by PourMyBeer, which is currently being used in over 200 establishments (including a beer wall in Chicago’s O’Hare airport) in 28 states and parts of Canada.

So raise a pint and make a toast.  To craft beer, and not having to wait to be served!

What a glorious age we live in.